Like much of the rest of the country, Virginia is in the midst of a craft beer boom. Devils Backbone pulled major hardware at this year’s GABF, Blue Mountain is growing their own hops, Hardywood Park is using local ingredients to put out stellar stouts and farmhouse ales, Stone just chose Virginia as the home of their East Coast brewery…the beer business is booming in Old Dominion. And Starr Hill, the longest running craft brewery in the state, helped jumpstart the local beer scene when they opened their doors in 1999. There are younger and arguably more adventurous breweries operating in Virginia now, but Starr Hill is still putting out impressive beers. Case in point: their new Shakedown, an imperial chocolate cherry stout that hits all the right notes.
Pour the stout into a goblet and it smells like the cherry tree that George Washington chopped down—fruity as hell. And the first taste? Holy malt balls, Batman. It’s thick, almost chewy and incredibly roasty with some chocolate on the forefront of the sip. Let the beer linger and the cherry starts to take over, balancing out that initial sweetness with a pleasant hit of tart fruit.
Take a look at the label and you’d think this stout would veer into dessert beer territory, but the dark chocolate and cherries mingle perfectly, working together to keep this stout from becoming too sweet, even after it warms in the glass.
There aren’t a lot of surprises in this beer—it says on the label “chocolate, cherry stout” and that’s exactly what you get. If you’re looking for complexity beyond what’s advertised here, look elsewhere. But if you’re looking for a solid chocolate stout that shows a bit of restraint, while still being fun as hell to drink on a cold day, then welcome to Shakedown street.
Brewery: Starr Hill
City: Crozet, Va.
Style: Chocolate stout
Availability: Limited, 22 ounce bottles